Council elections

​​​​​Local government elections play an important role in Western Australia's democratic system.

Ordinary local government elections are held every two years on the third Saturday in October.

The last local government elections were held in October 2017.

The majority of local governments conduct postal voting elections and contract the Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) to run their elections.

Local governments that conduct in-person elections receive support from the department, with a small number contracting the WAEC.

The WAEC appoints returning officers for the elections it conducts.

Voting systems

Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all electors are strongly encouraged to vote.

First past the post

Under the first past the post system, electors indicate the candidate, or candidates, of their choice by placing a tick in the box opposite the names of the chosen persons — up to the number of vacancies to be filled. The result of an election will be determined by counting the number of votes received by each candidate.

In cases where there is a single vacancy, the candidate with the most votes will be elected; while in cases where there is more than one vacancy, candidates will be elected in order according to the number of votes received by each.

In-person and postal elections

A local government may run either a postal election or a voting in-person election. Where an in-person election is held, electors may apply for a postal vote, absentee vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.

Enrolling to vote

The election conducted in each local government comes under the control of a returning officer.

The Local Government Act 1995 (the Act) provides that the council's chief executive officer is the returning officer for every voting in-person election unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function.

The electoral commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in-person elections conducted by the WAEC. A list of returning officers is available on the WAEC website. For all other elections, contact the relevant local government for more information.

Extraordinary elections

If the office of an elected councillor, mayor or president becomes vacant due to the death or resignation of a member, or another reason listed in the Act, an extraordinary election must be held within four months of the vacancy occurring.

The filling of extraordinary vacancies that occur after the third Saturday in January and up until the third Saturday in July in an election year can be deferred if approved by the electoral commissioner under the Act.

Other elections

The Act provides for elections to be held for other reasons, such as:

  • after a restructure of districts or wards
  • after the reinstatement of a council following suspension
  • after all offices become vacant
  • after a council is dismissed.

Extraordinary and other elections are advertised under local government notices in The West Australian newspaper. The advertisements give details about enrolling to vote, nominating to be a candidate in the elections, the ways in which a vote can be cast and the date of the election.

Returning Officer Manual

Local government elections are the ultimate means by which council members are held accountable for their performance as community representatives.

To maintain public confidence in the democratic process, elections must be run to the highest standards of fairness and propriety. It is the returning officer’s responsibility to ensure those standards are achieved.

Presiding/Electoral Officer Manual

The position of presiding officer or electoral officer is of paramount importance to the smooth running of an election. The way the duties of these functions are carried out will be under scrutiny on election day.

Presiding and electoral officers must act lawfully, professionally, impartially and with fairness, honesty and integrity and follow correct procedures.

Download the manuals

Guide for Scrutineers

The role of scrutineers in local government elections is an important one. Candidates have the right to appoint scrutineers to represent their interests in a specific way. This is to observe the conduct of the election at close hand to see that legal requirements are being met.

To do this effectively it is necessary for scrutineers to understand the election process and what the responsibilities and duties are of all the people involved.


2019 elections timetable
Days from polling day Election activities or eventsRelevant Act sections or RegulationsDayDate
273 to 92If an elected member's office becomes vacant on or between these days, the council may, with the approval of the Electoral Commissioner, allow the vacancy to remain unfilled until the ordinary election.LGA s4.16(4)
LGA s4.17(2)
Sat to Fri19/01/2019 to 19/07/2019
91If an elected member's office becomes vacant on or after this day the vacancy will remain unfilled until the ordinary election.LGA s4.16(2)(3)
LGA s4.17(1)
80Last day for local governments to gain agreement from the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election (compulsory if intent is to hold a postal election).LGA s4.20 (2)(3)(4)
LGA s4.61
80A decision for the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election cannot be rescinded after this day.LGA s4.20(6)
LGA s4.61(5)
70 to 56Between these days, the CEO of the local government is to give Statewide public notice of the closing date and time for elector enrolments.LGA s4.39(2)Sat to Sat10/08/2019 to 24/08/2019
56Last day for the local government's CEO to advise the Electoral Commissioner of the need to prepare an updated residents roll.LGA s4.40(1)Sat24/08/2019
56Advertising may begin for council nominations from 56 days, and no later than 45 days, before election day.LGA s4.47(1)Sat24/08/2019
50Close of Rolls – 5.00pmLGA 4.39(1)Fri30/08/2019
45Last day for advertisement to be placed calling for council nominations.LGA s4.47(1)Wed4/09/2019
44Nominations Open
First day for candidates to lodge completed nomination papers, in the prescribed form, with the Returning Officer. Nominations are open for 8 days.
LGA s4.49(a)Thu5/09/2019
38If a candidate's nomination is withdrawn not later than 4.00pm on this day, the candidate's deposit is to be refunded.LGA s4.50
Reg. 27(5)
37Close of Nominations, 4.00pmLGA 4.49(a)Thu12/09/2019
36Last day for the Electoral Commissioner to prepare an updated residents roll for the election. Last day for the local government's CEO to prepare an owners and occupiers roll.LGA s4.40(2)
LGA s4.41(1)
36Returning Officer to give Statewide public notice of the election as soon as practicable but no later than 19 days before election day.LGA s4.64(1)As soon as practicable
22The preparation of any consolidated roll (combined roll of residents, owners and occupiers) under regulation 18(1) is to be completed on or before this day.LGA s4.38(1)
Reg. 18(1)(2)
19Last day for the Returning Officer to give Statewide public notice of the election.LGA s4.64(1)Mon30/09/2019
4Close of absent voting and close of postal vote applications for 'voting in person' elections – 4.00pm.LGA s4.68(1)(c)
Reg. 37(3)(4)
1Close of early voting for 'voting in person' elections – 4.00pm.LGA s4.71(1)(e)
Reg. 59(2)
0Election Day
Close of poll – 6.00pm.
LGA s4.7
LGA s4.68(1)(e) 
2Election results declared and published.LGA s4.77As soon as practicable
2 - 14Report to minister. The report relating to an election under section 4.79 is to be provided to the minister within 14 days after the declaration of the result of the election. (See Online 'Form 20' at s4.79(1)(2)
Reg. 81
As soon as practicable
Within 28 days of result publicationAn invalidity complaint can be made to a Court of Disputed Returns, constituted by a magistrate, but can only be made within 28 days after notice is given of the result of the election.LGA s4.81(1)As applicable
Within 2 months of result declarationNewly elected members to make their declarations of office.LGA s2.29(1)(2)
LGA s2.32(c)
LGA s2.34(1)(c) 
As soon as practicable
Within 3 months of members making declarationsNewly elected members to lodge their Primary Returns with the local government's CEO.LGA s5.75(1)As soon as practicable
* All Act sections refer to the Local Government Act 1995.  All regulations refer to the Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.
Page reviewed 31 July 2019